Monday, January 14, 2008

Freedom of information bypass

Dr Rant has an interesting little story.
As the NHS continues to be sold off, more and more parts of it are called 'NHSThis' and 'NHSThat', complete with nice NHS logs and badges, but are infact limited companies with only a tenuous tie to the actual NHS.

This privatisation-by-stealth has an added advantage for a transparancy-averse government: it allows them to by-pass the Freedom of Information Act (an Act which has been a source of much embarrassment for the NHS).

And not only for the NHS, of course; the FoI Act has been pretty embarrassing all round for the government and, of course, a valuable source of amusement for the rest of us.
When a member of NHSEmployers made a statment on the BBC supporting the changes to medical training, Dr Rant made a Freedom of Information request to NHS Employers and received the following reply*:
Dr Rant,

NHS Employers is not a public body as defined in the Freedom of Information Act and is therefore unable to respond to FOI inquiries.


Sam Ash
Communications & Marketing Officer

It turns out that NHS Employers is a limited company, which is a member of the NHS Confederation, which 'helps the NHS' (somehow).

Well, well, well: isn't that convenient?

Alas, I am unable to find out what NHSEmployers actually claims to do as their website appears to be down, which is something of a pity, I think you'll agree. After all, I am sure that they provide a valuable service to the NHS.
Clearly, the 'NHS' is now simply a brand.

Shame it's become such a shit brand, but that's years of bad management for you.

The crucial bit here, of course, is whether the NHS "brand" is protected. In other words, do companies like NHSEmployers have to seek permission to use the NHS brand in their name or not?

If not, then this is simply a company attempting to cash in on what they hope is going to be, or already is, their major client.

If the brand is protected and NHSEmployers either had to seek permission to use it or, as Dr Rant implies, it is a private spin-off of an existing NHS Department, then it does look slightly dodgy.

Well, very dodgy, in fact...

1 comment:

Roger Thornhill said...

Surley the public, being "owners" of the NHS, can sue NHSEmployers for passing off.